Clients come to Cuddlists for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which being to receive hands-on comfort support in grief. A Cuddlist seeks to bring a conscious, attentive approach in showing up for someone in emotional pain. Cuddlists aren’t therapists: but we may be therapeutic, and as fellow humans showing up fully with our individual Medicines of Presence, what a gift we hold.
Grief is never digested linearly; it may never disappear, but time passing, fresh experiences, truly wise input, and space-holding each have their place in the process. The Cuddlist’s role is primarily the lattermost: to support grief through being present. What are some practical ways I as a Cuddlist might best facilitate such an experience?
1* Look at myself first, and ask a question (or 15, in the case of this paragraph). Historically, how does my own grief impact me? What makes it easy to buddy up with my own feelings, what makes me want to avoid them? How have I moved with and through it in the past myself – what has felt good, what has disempowered or rubbed me wrong? Who was my original grief-support model, and what do I like and dislike about what I learned from them? What do I most want to bring my suffering clients/friends, based on what I’ve noticed has helped me? Am I coming into the session with my own grief that I’m currently living/working/ignoring? What am I doing to meet my own support needs? How okay am I with the difficult feelings? It’s wonderful to show up having met my own needs and to be fully available for the needs of the other – it also seems wonderful to come knowing the grief shared may resonate to the point of bringing me to my own tears, modeling comfort in exploring deep feelings in doses.
2* Notice when I tend to want to offer a fix, and DON’T – which seems to take any variation of pesky nuances, as in the following:
– “What if you tried such and such a (cure/therapist/…)” – that may well have its appropriate time, but it has an equally inappropriate time.
– “This will be good for you in the long run!” sounds encouraging on the surface…but digging deeper, does it feel encouraging? Does it feel a little dismissive?
– “This will be over in no time, and then you’ll feel great.” Perhaps, again, occasionally appropriate – not the worst reminder to receive from a friend say, but not the best thing to hear in a moment of really sinking in and surrendering to the process of pain.
– “Why don’t you think about something good that’s going on for you? Puppies are cute!” When I’m uncomfortable, I might unconsciously steer the topic away. But really, it is as ordinary to have a talk about pain as it is about joy. I love to be an equally fair-weather-friend AND foul-weather friend.
Here’s one alternative!
– I’m curious – where do you feel that emotional hurt in your body?
– Would you like any touch there right now? If so, from yourself, or from me?
– What do you notice happening in there now?
– And now?
3* Use the convenient Cuddlist protocol of acceptance. “I am so sorry for your loss” may be all that needs saying. Thoughtful Grief Support looks like an attitude of neither praise-judging, nor curse-judging – “Yeah! You should definitely do/feel that!” nor “Wow, I can’t believe you’re that kind of person.” Because what do I know, really? What do I know of their experience, even if I’ve ALSO lost a loved one; what do I know about the exact medicine they need – and how beautiful if my presence affords them the time to discover the medicine within themselves. A neutral mind, unswayed by positive and negative thoughts, offers an approach which allows the other their experience without attaching to it. It models an acceptance of all ends of the spectrum.
Sweet humans, may you be well comforted, and may you be comforting.
This series is in part inspired by an interview on the topic of Grief + Cuddling with Cuddlist Nick Fowler, the book “It’s OK that your’re NOT OK – Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand” (by Megan Devine. Sounds True press. 2017), and in part, by the author’s personal experiences processing grief.